Book of the Month: A Novel with Many Strands and Depths by Karolina Sutton

On Friday we’ll be having our book group discussion about Tim Glencross’ Barbarians. In advance of what will surely be a fascinating chat, Tim’s agent Karolina Sutton tells us a bit more about how she came to work with Tim…

Karolina Sutton, agent at Curtis Brown

Barbarians arrived on my Kindle on a Friday evening and by Saturday afternoon I was desperate to meet its talented author. Blown away by the quality of the writing and the razor-sharp social observation, I did what I do very rarely – I offered to represent Tim on a partial manuscript. As I was one of a number of agents keen to work with Tim, we went through what the industry crudely calls ‘a beauty contest’ in which the author meets a few agents and chooses one they’d like to work with. I was the lucky one.

Barbarians delves into a social circle of London’s bright young things. Some of them are born into privilege, others will stop at nothing to join the establishment. Ruthless ambition in a character is a gift for a novelist – these people are always up to something and never stand still! – but in Afua Tim has truly created a modern Becky Sharp. She is formidable at outmanoeuvring her competitors and utterly devoid of scruples. A perfectly drawn comedic character. Many forms of aspiration run through the novel. There is Buzzy who would rather forget about her suburban background and there are parents whose ambitions for their children lead to family frictions. Tim taps into these aspirations with great skill. He examines his characters’ snobbery and exposes their hypocrisy. The results are deliciously funny, but not superficially so. This is a novel with many strands and many depths. If I mentioned Thackeray I should also mention George Eliot.

Personally, I was particularly drawn to the beautifully observed love stories and relationships which unfolded in very unexpected ways – just as they do in real life. This is a novel that will make you laugh, think and feel.

Barbarians will be published in paperback by John Murray on March 26th.


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